Big Issues, Big Debates Security and Political Economy in World Politics
Learning Objectives • The two big areas of inquiry in political science • Why are security and political economy at the forefront of research? • The central debates about security and political economy • What do Realists and Idealists say about these subjects?
Important definitions • Anarchy • Hierarchy • Nation-state • Security • International Security • National Security • Individual Security • Sovereignty
Big Issues • Two subjects dominate the field of International Relations • Security • International Political Economy
Security • At root, security refers both to the objective absence of threats to acquired values and the subjective sense that such values are safe. • International security refers to the ability of states to maintain their identity and functional integrity. • National security refers to threats (usually military) to the interests of specific states. • Individual security refers to the safety of people regardless of the security that states may enjoy.
State-centric views • Sovereign nation-states exist in a condition known as anarchy. • Anarchy is the absence of overarching authority. • No “third-party enforcers”
Domestic vs. International Politics • Domestic politics differ from international politics. • E.g., international politics is conducted under the shadow of war. • Domestic and international politics involve separate systems. • A system is an arrangement of things that are interconnected such that a change in one produces a change in the others.
The Realist Answer • “Realists” say that anarchy dooms us to live in a nasty, brutal world – a virtual war of all against all. • Trust is difficult if not impossible to establish. • Promises are unreliable. • Violence is constant
The Idealist Answer • “Idealists” argue that anarchy does not mean that we must permanently live under a shadow of violence. • Important processes exist that are capable of transforming international politics from a jungle to a society.
International Political Economy • Highlights the intersection of politics and economics. • Politics largely determines the framework of economics, channeling it in various directions. • Economic processes tend to redistribute power and wealth, transforming relations among groups.
Three conceptions of political economy • Mercantilist (Realist) • Liberal • Marxist
Realist Conceptions of Political Economy • Politics determines economic organization • National security issues and national sentiments are the primary engines of international economic exchange. • Nation-states are the principle economic actors • Economic relations are essentially conflictual. • Maximizing the national interest is the central goal of economic exchange
Realist Conceptions of Political Economy [cont.] • International economic activity changes in response to shifts in the international distribution of power. • E.g., from unipolarity to multipolarity.
Liberal Conceptions of Political Economy • In reality, politics determines economics, but economics should determine economics. • The pursuit of self-interest in a free, competitive economy achieves the greatest good for the greatest number. • Economic relations are fundamentally harmonious. • People and firms are interested in promoting free exchange.
Liberal Conceptions of Political Economy [cont.] • The goal of economic exchange in to maximize global welfare. • Free markets are dynamic, but tend to settle into periods of equilibrium. • Market expansion is the norm
Marxist Conceptions of Political Economy • Economics determines politics. • Capitalists (bourgeoisie) dominate global political processes • Economic activity is driven by class conflict. • Economic classes are the primary economic actors • Bourgeoisie and proletariat have opposing interests which both try to maximize.
Marxist Conceptions of Political Economy [cont.] • Capitalist economies have a tendency toward disequilibrium • Can lead to violent change.